North Long Beach residents create resource guide for families struggling amid pandemic

Community activists in North Long Beach are collecting information from local nonprofits to create a resource guide for families struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long Beach data shows that COVID-19 has hit Black and Latino communities located in the most densely populated parts of the city the hardest, including North Long Beach. These regions have historically struggled with access to food, economic support and stable access to the internet—which is where most public-health resources have been posted.

To get around this digital divide, Shirin Senegal, founder of the community activist group Ronnie’s House, with the help of other local nonprofits, is gathering information on neighborhood groups and the services they provide to create a physical pamphlet, the Uptown Connect Resource Guide.

“Low-income families and seniors are not well connected,” Senegal said. “We won’t allow the digital divide to get in the way.”

The booklets are approximately 16 pages long and are filled with information on nonprofits that provide services such as food distribution, immigration assistance, rent relief and economic support. Senegal said 10,000 copies of the booklets are scheduled to be dropped off at senior homes, low-income neighborhoods and small beauty salons and barbershops in local neighborhoods next week. Some of the locations she mentioned include Manny The Barber barbershop, D Boi’s Barbershop and Elation Hair beauty salon. Barbershops and beauty salons have historically been seen as bedrocks of these underserved communities, Senegal said, and the intention is to reach the audience that struggles to stay well informed.

“The pamphlets are multifaceted in order to get to Black and Brown communities,” Senegal said. “A lot of communities are struggling to make ends meet, and when you’re in the struggle it’s hard to think about COVID.”

A Google Form was shared on social media where organizers encouraged nonprofits to fill it out with their contact information and the type of services they provide. Joni Ricks-Oddie, an epidemiologist and vice president of the Deforest Park Neighborhood Association, partnered with Ronnie’s House to provide informational videos on COVID-19 and to help with the creation of the resource guide.

“If you know of a resource or run a nonprofit or any type of organization that provides resources around health, youth, senior, food security, homeless support, veteran support, health care, workforce, please share it with them so they can be included in the resource guide,” Ricks-Oddie said on Facebook.

The Uptown Connect pamphlets are an extension of community outreach efforts from last year, when Senegal and other neighborhood activists came together to create LB United in April—an online hub with resources for struggling families. The website is currently in beta mode, and will soon include a smartphone app to be more mobile friendly. Senegal said her nonprofit received $50,000 through federal CARES Act funding for community outreach programs and services. About 23 groups—including Centro CHA, Khmer Girls in Action and others—have received CARES Act funding to carry out similar outreach campaigns.

Senegal’s nonprofit aimed to provide an education campaign in an effort to inform the community on how to stay safe as the virus spread. The funds were also used to transport and store thousands of donated personal protection equipment for vulnerable groups, such as seniors, who Senegal said were left feeling isolated as the pandemic limited person-to-person contact.

“Seniors can’t afford PPE,” Senegal said. “They are isolated with no food and no PPE. That broke my heart.”

Thousands of units of PPE, from masks to gloves, have been distributed via partnerships with other nonprofit groups such as the Gray Panthers. Senegal said she still has some PPE units in stock and is encouraging others who need the equipment to reach out to her. The equipment has to be distributed by the end of January. To reach her, people can call 562-285-3851.

“I can’t change everything in 60 days,” Senegal said. “But this is an incredible start.”

Boxes filled with personal protection equipment donated by Amwar USA Inc. Photo courtesy of Shirin Senegal of Ronnie’s House nonprofit.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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